Shishak (Hebrew: שישק, Shīʼshaḵ; Greek: Σουσακείμ, Sousakeīm), an Egyptian pharaoh mentioned in the Biblical books of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles and a contemporary of the Israelite kings Solomon and Rehoboam.
With better understanding of the ordering of the Egyptian dynasties and the Revised Egyptian Chronology, it would seem that the best candidate for Shishak is now Thutmose III, the 6th Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. He had a co-regency with Hatshepsut for 22 years as he was too young to rule when his father Thutmose II died. He ruled for another 32 years after Hatshepsut's death. Hatshepsut was probably the Queen of Sheba who visited Solomon after he had built the temple. Thutmose III / Shishak plundered Jerusalem at the battle of Megiddo in the year following Hatshepsut's death taking many of the treasures in Solomon's temple including 300 gold shields, as recorded in the temple at Karnak.
Traditionally, scholars and archaeologists have identified Shishak with Pharaoh Shoshenq I, although more recently historian David Rohl has claimed Rameses II as Shishak, based on a variety of circumstantial evidence. Seti I - the father of Ramses II has also been suggested.
In Down's revised Egyptian chronology, the Third Intermediate Period vanishes completely. This is particularly noteworthy because of the mention of at least one of its kings (Shishak) in the Bible. As previously mentioned, most scholars accept this Shishak as Shoshenq I, but that association is no longer tenable. Immanuel Velikovsky identified Shoshenq I as So, the Pharaoh with whom King Hoshea of the Kingdom of Israel ("The Northern") attempted to form an alliance. He based that on a comparison of victory stela of Thutmose III and Shoshenq I: while each of these kings records a tribute paid him by a Hebrew king, Thutmose III boasts of fighting a war to get his tribute, while Shoshenq I does not.
Shishak first appears in the Biblical narrative as a patron of Jeroboam, one of Solomon's sons who fled from the presence of his father:
"Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam. But Jeroboam arose and fled into Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon." - 1_Kings 11:40
His second appearance would be in a raid against King Rehoboam of the Southern Kingdom of Judah:
"In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, because they had been unfaithful to the LORD, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen. And the people were without number who came with him from Egypt—Libyans, Sukkiim, and Ethiopians. And he took the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem. Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and to the princes of Judah, who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said to them, "Thus says the LORD, 'You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak.'" Then the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, "The LORD is righteous." When the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah: "They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. Nevertheless, they shall be servants to him, that they may know my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries. So Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. He took away the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house. He took away everything. He also took away the shields of gold that Solomon had made." - 2_Chronicles 12:2-9
Identity as Thutmose III
While Solomon was alive, in the latter part of his reign, Jereboam fled from Solomon and took refuge with Shishak, Pharaoh of Egypt. After Solomon's death, Jereboam returned to Caanan where he was made King over the ten northern tribes of Israel. Jereboam and Rehoboam were constantly at war thoughout their reign. Shishak / Thutmose III plundered Jerusalem in Rehoboam's 5th year as king at the Battle of Megiddo shortly after Hatshepsut's death.
Identity as Shosenq I
Shoshenq I (952-930 BC), the founder of the 22nd Dynasty, was in all probability of Libyan origin. It is possible that his claim to the throne was that of the sword, but it is more likely that he acquired it by marriage with a princess of the preceding dynasty. On the death of Pasebkhanu II, the last of the kings of the 21st Dynasty, 952 BC, Shoshenq ascended the throne, in command of an efficient, well-equipped army and a filled treasury. His goal was Asiatic domination.
Shoshenq's Record at Karnak
A contemporary record of Shoshenq's campaign into Israel was engraved on the south wall of the Temple of Amon at Karnak by Shoshenq himself. Not only is the expedition recorded, but there is a list of districts and towns which were also mentioned in the Book of Joshua; among the names of the list are Rabbath, Taanach, Gibeon, Mahanaim, Beth-horon and other towns both of Israel and Judah. That names of places in the Northem Kingdom are mentioned in the list does not imply that Shoshenq had directed his armies against Jeroboam and plundered his territories. It was the custom in antiquity for a victorious monarch to include among conquered cities any place that paid tribute or was under subjection, whether captured in war or not; and it was sufficient reason for Shoshenq to include these Israelite places that Jeroboam, as seems probable, had invited him to come to his aid. Among the names in the list was “Jud-hamalek” - Yudhmalk on the monuments - which was at first believed to represent the king of Judah, with a figure which passed for Rehoboam. Being, however, a place-name, it is now recognized to be the town Yehudah, belonging to the king. On the death of Shoshenq his successor assumed a nominal suzerainty over the land of Canaan.
Identity as Ramesses II
- Main Article: Ramesses II
Egyptologist and historian David Rohl created a stir when he published a revision of the traditional Egyptian and Near Eastern chronologies, and claimed the great 19th Dynasty pharaoh Ramesses II as Shishak. He based his theory on several key elements:
- The identity of Shoshenq I as Shishak was based solely on a reading of the text of the Bubasite Portal at the Temple of Karnak near Thebes by Jean-François Champollion on his only trip to Egypt in the mid-1800’s after he successfully deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphic language. On the Portal is a list of cities Shoshenq I had conquered in his campaign, and the 29th city Champollion read it as y-w-d-h-m-r-k, surmising that it meant “Judah Kingdom” (Hebrew: יהודה מלכות, Yehūḏāh Malkūth). But it is not the word “Jerusalem,” which is not only not where it should be on the portal, it in fact it is not there at all. A highly important city such as Jerusalem, the capitol of a nation, should have merited mention in Shoshenq’s campaign.
- The only inscription from Egyptian sources directly identified as mentioning a conquest of Jerusalem is on the north tower of the pylon of the first court at the Ramesseum near Karnak, which was built by Ramses II: ”The town in which the king plundered in Year 8 – Shalem”. The name “Jerusalem” was a later word made up of “yeru”, meaning “foundation” or “city” (possibly bestowed by the patriarch Abraham as “yireh” for Mt. Moriah) and “Shalem”, either an early local deity from pagan times or a byname for Melchizidek, hence “city of Shalem” (Hebrew: ירושלם, Yerūshālāyim).
- Rohl also argued that a nickname found for Ramses III, read as “se-se” from the hieroglyphic, may have been corrupted by the Hebrews with an added “K” sound at the end to signify contempt, becoming “se-sek.” In Hebrew it would have been written as שישק “sysq”, or “sha-shek”.
The weakening of Israel at the time of Shishak’s invasion, assuming he was indeed Ramesses II, would fit well with the inscription on the Mereneptah Stele by that later pharaoh (Ramses’ successor), which stated “Israel is desolate; his seed is no more.”
Identity as Seti I
In January 2013, Historian James Charles Lee Powell suggested that there is significant evidence to suggest Pharaoh Shishak was Seti I. He based his theory on the following lines of evidence:
- The Mereneptah Stele which states "Israel is desolate; his seed is no more" can be directly related to the reign of Athaliah, the usurper Queen of the tribe of Judah, who executed all the male heirs to the throne (except one who was in hiding) approximately 808 BC in the New Chronology of David Austin. Seti I's first regnal year was approximately 89 years before this slaughter took place, precisely around the 5th year of Rehoboam of Israel (i.e. 897 BC) when Shishak invaded. Remarkably, the Stele includes an Egyptian prefix to the name "Israel" which limits the nation to only a tribe - most likely then, the tribe of Judah.
- On the north wall of the Hypostyle Hall at the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Egypt, Seti's campaign into Canaan and Lebanon is recorded. A city which Powell identifies as Jerusalem can be seen on this bas-relief, together with a town called "Yenoam" which Powell believes to be Solomon's House of the Forest of Lebanon. Guards holding rectangular shields can clearly be seen in the bas-relief, and these he identifies with some of the 300 golden shields which Solomon made.
- Seti's Beth Shan Victory Stele records about himself: ""He causes to retreat the princes of Syria (Kharu), all the boastfulness of whose mouth was (so) great. Every foreign country of the ends of the earth, their princes say: "Where shall we go?" They spend the night giving testimony in his name, saying: "Behold it, behold it? in their hearts." - This could be a reference to the wisdom of Solomon 'whose mouth was so great'. He had the admiration of 'every foreign country of the ends of the earth'. In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ noted that the Queen of Sheba came from 'the ends of the earth' to visit Solomon because of his fame.
- At Karnak we find: "The Shasu-bedouin [i.e. Semitic foot wanderers] are plotting rebellion. Their chiefs have gathered together in the hills of Kharu (Syria). They have fallen into chaos and are fighting and each one is slaying the other. They do not obey the laws of the Palace!" - This could refer to the in-fighting between Judah and Israel under kings Rehoboam and Jeroboam.
- At Karnak we find: "Presentation of tribute by His Majesty to his father Amen...consisting of silver, gold, lapis-lazuli, turquoise, red jasper and every sort of precious stone. The chiefs of the hill countries are in his grasp to fill the workshops of his father Amen." - This would seem to refer to precious stones given to Solomon by the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:10), which Shishak plundered. The great riches were probably used to establish Ramses II as one of the greatest builders of temples/monuments in Egyptian history!
- Rohl, David M. Pharaohs and Kings, Crown Publishers, New York, NY (1995), originally published in Great Britain as A Test of Time, Century LTD, London.
- Albright, William F. The Old Testament and Modern Study, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England (1951).